2021 Ford Bronco 'catastrophic engine failure' complaints lead to NHTSA investigation

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

The 2021 Ford Bronco is now the focus of a federal safety investigation after 32 Bronco owners complained of alarming engine failure experiences.

"Under normal driving conditions without warning the vehicle may experience a loss of motive power without restart due to catastrophic engine failure related to a faulty valve within 2.7 L Eco-Boost Engines," according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report. It says the investigation opened May 27.

Documents filed by Ford with NHTSA say 25,538 Broncos may have this problem.

The inquiry, initially reported by and, will determine whether Ford must recall its vehicles for repair. Recalls costs have been an ongoing problem at Ford, so much so that the company recently hired a quality expert to address a problem that costs the automaker billions annually.

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The federal Office of Defects Investigation received petitions requesting investigation on March 17, March 18 and March 29. The petitions are under review.

"The petitioners alleged that 2021 MY Ford Broncos vehicles are experiencing loss of motive power at highway speeds with no-restart due to catastrophic engine failures," the federal safety agency wrote in the document posted on its website.

The 2021 Bronco two-door Wildtrak is equipped with the 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost engine now under federal review for possible failure. Other Broncos offer the engine as an option.

That engine is standard on the Wildtrak and optional on all other models except the Everglades and Raptor, on which it's not available, Car and Driver confirmed.

Ford told Car and Driver: "We are aware of a select number of engines with this concern and we are investigating. If any customers are experiencing issues, they will be covered under the vehicle's five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. We will cooperate with the NHTSA as we always do."

Alarming customer experiences

The federal agency has reports from all over the U.S. on its incident reporting site, including Michigan, Ohio, Alaska, Oklahoma and Nevada. Here are some of them: 

  • A Granite Bay, California, driver wrote May 5: "My wife was driving the vehicle and was enveloped in smoke and the engine stopped and she was stuck in the middle lane of a busy road in rush hour. A dangerous section of road a few miles from our house. I drove down and gave her my SUV and then called AAA who towed it to the dealership. The motor was dead. The vehicle was towed to Future Ford of Sacramento. They then diagnosed it a few days later and informed us that it is a complete engine failure and that it will take several months to get the vehicle back to us. There were no warning lights or any warning prior to the engine stopping and a large amount of smoke to the point that my wife thought the whole vehicle was on fire. Four people stopped to help her and get her to the side of the road."
  • A Whiteland, Indiana, driver wrote May 3: "At 2,000 miles the engine dropped a valve. Vehicle has already received a new engine. Vehicle shut off running down the interstate."
  • A Farmington Hills driver wrote March 14: "I was driving to work on the morning of March 14, 2022, on the highway approx. 70 mph. I felt a falter or engine buck, I began to lose power to the engine. ... I was able to make the additional 10 miles to my workplace. When I stopped at the gate for security, the engine died and I was unable to restart it.
  • A Rochester, New York, driver wrote March 13: "I was on cruise control going about 70 yesterday when I lost all power at the gas pedal. I made it to the side of the highway and waited 90 minutes for a tow truck to come get me. I had my dogs with me and it was 25 degrees out. We were three hours from home. The service department reported today that I had a catastrophic engine failure. A valve came loose and was crushed by the pistons or some such."
  • A Park City, Utah, driver wrote on Valentine's Day: "Was driving my son to school, maybe 30 mph when all of a sudden I heard some clicking noises from the engine. The power dropped and I was barely able to pull over to the side of the busy road out of harms way. Engine dead. Only warning lights I got were a forward sensor failure and then a message telling me to pull over put it in park and restart. I tried but I was not able to restart. ... Dealer confirmed a dropped valve and engine failure. Awaiting a replacement engine."
  • A Middleburg, Florida, driver wrote Jan. 19, "broke down with 2058 miles. Flashing engine light, strong fumes smell and vigorously shaking. Ford customer care said there’s nothing they could do. Not even a loaner for a $63k vehicle."

Reports of problems filed on the federal agency are monitored by automotive companies and federal regulators who look for trends and need for action to prevent crashes.

Not the first recall

The 2021 Bronco has two recalls already: one issued in October affected potentially 553 vehicles for passenger air bag deployment problems and another issued in December for a misaligned radar module that could prevent the vehicle from maintaining a safe distance from vehicles while using adaptive cruise control. In addition, the federal safety site said, "The automatic braking system  may react slowly, or not react at all, during a pre-collision assist braking event."

The Ford Bronco has a long waiting list and has proved to be popular with consumers. It is designed to compete with the Jeep Wrangler as an off-road adventure vehicle. The Bronco began shipping to customers a year ago. It won the North American Utility of the Year in January.

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Ongoing headaches

Ford has been plagued with recall issues, ranging from engine fire risk in the 2021 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator while they're turned off to 2020-22 Explorers that roll away while in park. Ford CEO Jim Farley recently named a quality specialist to address the chronic problems. These are costly issues for the company and the consumers. 

Car owners may check for recalls here or by going to

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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-222-6512 her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.